'I like mountains because of the physical challenge and the aesthetics'

October 7, 2005

As professor of mountain studies, Martin Price is dedicated to ensuring sustainable development

Martin Price believes he is the world's first professor of mountain studies. His position at the UHI Millennium Institute, in Scotland, is all the more notable for someone from relatively flat and urban London.

For the past five years, Professor Price has been developing the Centre for Mountain Studies at the institute, which aims to become a university serving the Scottish Highlands and Islands in 2007. This week it hosts an international conference with more than 250 delegates from 47 countries.

A love of the outdoors runs in Professor Price's family. His grandmother was a keen climber who went to the Alps and Rockies into her eighties. "My parents took us every other year to Snowdonia, that's my spiritual home. I like mountains because of the physical challenge, the aesthetics and being out in real weather."

Professor Price studied environmental science at Sheffield University, where he could climb nearby, developing a concern for environmental management and sustainability. Mountains are seen as "natural", he said, but they are being reshaped even without man's intervention - grazing animals can effect profound change by altering vegetation and water runoff.

Although tourism was unavoidable in such areas, he said: "I would definitely not have tourism as the sole basis of the economy. It brings jobs and income but it's seasonal, it tends to push property prices up, can create real tension in communities and can have a severe environmental impact."

He admitted he did not have time to get to the mountains as often as he would like. "I was a serious but not very good mountaineer, now I'm more of a hill walker."

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